On the road to secession in Rick Perry's Texas:
That's Paul Krugman in today's New York Times, talking about the mess in Texas, whose redneck, teabagging governor bragged about "billions in surplus" during his reelection campaign. Like most things in Rick Perry's world, that was a tall Texas tale:
Right now, triumphant conservatives in Washington are declaring that they can cut taxes and still balance the budget by slashing spending. Yet they haven’t been able to do that even in Texas, which is willing both to impose great pain (by its stinginess on health care) and to shortchange the future (by neglecting education). How are they supposed to pull it off nationally, especially when the incoming Republicans have declared Medicare, Social Security and defense off limits?
People used to say that the future happens first in California, but these days what happens in Texas is probably a better omen. And what we’re seeing right now is a future that doesn’t work.
But couldn't a posse of tough-talkin' Texans see those budget storm clouds a-brewin' over their hog-heaven horizon?:
How bad is the Texas deficit? Comparing budget crises among states is tricky, for technical reasons. Still, data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities suggest that the Texas budget gap is worse than New York’s, about as bad as California’s, but not quite up to New Jersey levels.
The point, however, is that just the other day Texas was being touted as a role model (and still is by commentators who haven’t been keeping up with the news). It was the state the recession supposedly passed by, thanks to its low taxes and business-friendly policies. Its governor boasted that its budget was in good shape thanks to his “tough conservative decisions.”
Oh, and at a time when there’s a full-court press on to demonize public-sector unions as the source of all our woes, Texas is nearly demon-free: less than 20 percent of public-sector workers there are covered by union contracts, compared with almost 75 percent in New York.
Pull yourselves up by yer gosh-derned bootstraps, l'il cowpokes:
What about the budget? The truth is that the Texas state government has relied for years on smoke and mirrors to create the illusion of sound finances in the face of a serious “structural” budget deficit — that is, a deficit that persists even when the economy is doing well. When the recession struck, hitting revenue in Texas just as it did everywhere else, that illusion was bound to collapse.
The only thing that let Gov. Rick Perry get away, temporarily, with claims of a surplus was the fact that Texas enacts budgets only once every two years, and the last budget was put in place before the depth of the economic downturn was clear. Now the next budget must be passed — and Texas may have a $25 billion hole to fill. Now what?
Given the complete dominance of conservative ideology in Texas politics, tax increases are out of the question. So it has to be spending cuts.
So America's most obnoxious state has fallen on hard times despite its oily governor's routine claims of its low tax, lax regulatory superiority. Welcome to the rodeo, governor. But now where are you going to get the money to secede?
Yet Mr. Perry wasn’t lying about those “tough conservative decisions”: Texas has indeed taken a hard, you might say brutal, line toward its most vulnerable citizens. Among the states, Texas ranks near the bottom in education spending per pupil, while leading the nation in the percentage of residents without health insurance. It’s hard to imagine what will happen if the state tries to eliminate its huge deficit purely through further cuts.
I don’t know how the mess in Texas will end up being resolved. But the signs don’t look good, either for the state or for the nation.
Krugman's column is here.